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Kids work for fun.

Community service projects make unconventional youth programs.

A nursing home and a homeless shelter were two venues in an annual meeting youth program for the National Speakers Association, Tempe, Arizona. The two NSA members we asked to cochair this year's program conduct educational programs for young people. To make a point with kids in their own programs, Phil Boyte and Norm Hull often design awareness components--for example, serving only rice at lunch to demonstrate the diet of half of the world. Hull says that without some meaningful element, youth programs can turn into glorified babysitting.

For the NSA program, Boyte and Hull built in an optional afternoon of community service projects, and all 100 kids signed up. They provided the planning and curriculum, while NSA's home office handled logistics like budgeting, correspondence, site coordination, registration, and so forth.

For the community service afternoon, our volunteers first defined appropriate projects as work that

* could be done in an afternoon;

* would have immediate results;

* was easy to get to; and

* could be applied to any community.

From a volunteer service bureau in our host city of Orlando, Boyte and Hull got the names of 600 organizations that use volunteers. (In most cities, call city hall or the convention bureau.) Five projects would break the kids into groups and offer variety. They settled on

* hosting a "Christmas in July" party at a nursing home;

* serving food at a homeless shelter;

* doing odd jobs for people in the "Meals on Wheels" program;

* helping out at an animal shelter; and

* planting trees along a freeway.

Their next step was to identify youth team leaders who would be similar to camp counselors. Boyte and Hull handpicked to serve as team leaders a number of older kids who had attended past NSA youth programs and several college students who volunteered for them in similar programs. They had at least one leader for every 10 participants. Leaders were in charge but still close enough in age for the kids to relate to.

"It was a great day," Hull says. "There were a few problems, but you have to expect surprises when you deal with 100 kids. A lot of them came back feeling empowered, and I think some parents were really surprised."

Evaluations following the community service projects were positive, and most wrote of it as a memorable experience. But actions speak louder than words: The next day the group held a fund-raiser among themselves--a mini-Olympics in which each could pay 25 cents to play a game--and collected $250 for the homeless shelter they had served. When the adults heard what the kids had done, they passed a hat and collected another $2,100 for the shelter.

Keep these tips in mind for your community service program:

* Be prepared for surprises and medical emergencies. Who knows CPR? Where will parents be?

* Inspect each site beforehand for safety and workability.

* Don't expect parents to be available.

* Buy event insurance (about $600).

* Keep group size manageable (we broke into units of 20) and age appropriate (older kids don't want to be with younger ones).

* Assign at least one association staff person to be a troubleshooter.

* Make sure participants are physically capable and appropriately dressed.

* Make sure parents and kids know the rules about acceptable behavior. Put it in writing in the promotional materials.

Boyte and Hull publish a manual on conducting youth programs. For more information, call (714) 369-5980.

Jim McVeigh is manager of communications at the National Speakers Association, Tempe, Arizona.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:volunteer projects for children
Author:Mcveigh, Jim
Publication:Association Management
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Words:582
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